Toshiyuki Miyama & His New Herd - Tsuchi No Ne. 1973 Japan
As usual, the AC provides a full review with insights. What a treasure of information this gentleman is!
"Nippon Columbia: NCB-7023 (Adventure In Sound series), 1973, Japan
Toshiyuki Miyama - Conductor
Yasuhiro Koyama - Composer
Kozaburo Yamaki - Electric Guitar, Composer
Masaaki Itoh - Electric Bass
Isao Yomoda - Drums
Kiyoshi Takano - Piano, Electric Piano
Kazumi Takeda - Trumpet
Shin Kazuhara - Trumpet
Yoshikazu Kishi - Trumpet
Shuji Atsuta - Trumpet
Teruhiko Kataoka - Trombone
Masamichi Uetaka - Trombone
Tokura Seiichi - Trombone
Takehide Uchida - Trombone
Kazumi Oguro - Alto Sax, Soprano Sax
Eiji Toki - Alto Sax
Mamoru Mori - Tenor Sax
Seiji Inoue - Tenor Sax
Shigeru Hirano - Baritone Sax
1 - Youkai Kappa Konnichi Izuko Sumi Ya
- Kappa Torai No Tsuchi
- Mokuhi No Yotabi
- Bourei No Numa
- Neneko No Nakibushi
- Senshouiwaiutae Shinkokka
1 - Kurozuka
Band leader Toshiyuki Miyama and his New herd orchestra were a ubiquitous presence in the 70s Japanese music scene, churning out album after album of mainly straight big band jazz, along with some typical pop-covers/exploitation fare. However, during the heady days of the early 70s "New Rock" boom, they did find themselves experimenting on a few interesting LPs. There was the relatively well-known "Yamataifu", a collaboration with famous pianist Masahiko Satoh, as well as the more obscure "Eternity?/Epos", working once again with Satoh along with drummer Masahiko Togashi and a percussion ensemble. They were soon to abandon this adventurous direction (along with most of the many seasoned jazzmen, studio musicians, and bewildered major label executives who had been temporarily sucked into the psychedelic vortex of New Rock Japan), but not before leaving behind one more dark jewel in the rubble. "Tsuchi No Ne - Nippon Densetsu No Naka No Shijou", roughly translates to "Sound of the Earth - The Poetry in Japanese Legends", and like a number of other classics of the era, it attempted to draw on the essence of ancient Japanese folklore and mythology as inspiration for a new and radical kind of music. But "Tsuchi No Ne" is somewhat different from its musical peers, choosing to dwell on the dark, sinister side of these myths and legends. This is quite evident in both the striking cover art and the track titles themselves, referencing ghosts, grotesque monsters (the Kappa, a hideous river-dwelling creature thought to drag unsuspecting victims to a watery grave) and a macabre Noh drama about a vile man-eating ogress. Most importantly, this theme infuses the music, a fascinating mixture of electric big band jazz-rock and what can only be called avant-prog, despite the seeming incongruity of applying that term to an early 70s Japanese jazz album. Two mammoth side-long pieces are on offer here, the first a suite divided into six smaller sections, composed by regular New Herd guitarist Kozaburo Yamaki, the second a monolithic opus penned by film and television soundtrack composer Yasuhiro Koyama. Certain comparisons can be drawn to the more rigorous side of early British jazz-rock (Soft Machine circa 5/6 and the best of Ian Carr's Nucleus) and perhaps also to the most complex horn rock works of the era, due to the heavy brass presence of the big band. But interestingly, what I'm reminded of most is classic French avant-prog/jazz-rock of a slightly later vintage. In particular, I'm thinking of Vortex's shadowy masterpiece "Les Cycles de Thanatos", as well as some of Yochk'o Seffer's great works with Zao and Neffesh Music. The strange, dark tension and compositional complexities are very similar, and quite unmistakable to my ears. However, these comparisons can only go so far. Distinctly Japanese atmospheres are palpable, and Yamaki's wicked fuzz/wah guitar-work will not let you forget what era we are truly in here. This is a special album, in my opinion, and certainly deserving of a much wider audience. Unfortunately, as is often the case with these things, it's by far Miyama's rarest LP, until now only known and cherished by the small group of Japanese collectors aware of its quality. Miyama's back-catalogue has not seen much action in the CD reissue market, so I'm afraid this album might be doomed to spend eternity trapped in its own dusky realm. Here's to hoping that I'm wrong."
And would you believe? He was wrong! And I'm sure he's happy about it too!
CD: 2012 Columbia
Here's an album that you would have no chance of finding originally, unless you could read kanji or knew what the cover looked like. There are these records from Japan that are so obscure and buried, that even hardcore collectors living in Tokyo do not know about. But they're beginning to surface ever so slowly. There were a lot of surprise CD reissues in 2012, but perhaps none blindsided me as much as this one. I suspect original LPs are of this can be found for 50 cents or $2,000 depending on where you're looking.
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